Crime & the City Solution

Paradise Discotheque

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What turned out to be Crime & the City Solution's final album was, in the end, its most unique and striking record, with all the promise and fire of its past at last giving a wholly individual expression, foreshadowing Simon Bonney's equally impressive solo career. Lead single and opening track "I Have the Gun" shows the band's new power in particular, shifting between a countryesque blend of jump blues and sorrowful twang, and a snarling, forceful electric guitar build. Alexander Hacke's work on the latter part is especially impressive, while Mick Harvey shifts between the two gears with aplomb. Bonney, meanwhile, has shaped his now slightly dryer but no less passionate vocals into a unique instrument, easily able to move from the smoky late-night jazz moods of "The Sly Persuaders," to the stunning reworking of the old traditional "Motherless Child." The band's collective grasp of mood and style make Paradise both the most varied and most attractive Crime album of the lot -- everything's a little more on edge, tensions are higher in performance and delivery, and the mood is not simply building doom, but threatening plenty along the way. "The Dolphins and the Sharks" is especially notable, with a quick but subtle bass pulse from Thomas Stern relentlessly driving the increasingly edgy performance, as Hacke's guitar, and Bronwyn Adams' violin contribute ever more layers of shade. The combination of looped African percussion and what sounds like muffled orchestration on "The Sun Before the Darkness" is just as striking, especially in concert with Bonney's delivery. The last half of the album is a fitting farewell bow for the band -- like the concluding part of The Bride Ship, it's an extended multi-song piece, called "The Last Dictator." With Bonney's portrayal of the titular character -- a bizarre but fascinating musical/political figure -- at the center, it's a tour de force for both band and singer.

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